Carpool, Drug Store, Disaster

We've all had days like that one, days that shocked and hurt us, but rarely do we experience them with such collective intensity.

I drove the carpool to the special elementary school program, and that was mostly what was on my mind that day, would this alt-ed school suit my little daughter? On the next level of consciousness sat my own return to school, my first seminary class for the new year coming the next day. On a more personal level, I had a date for lunch with Pure Luck and was excited to see him. And on a more ephemeral level, I needed to stop at the CVS for an errand I can no longer recall.

At the checkout, the cashier told me what had happened, a plane flying into the World Trade Center. It must have been just about 9 a.m., and I assumed some small plane had gone astray, but I turned the radio on in the car and drove straight home to turn on the news.

In those days we had the TV in the sun room, and I remember what a good space it was for happy times and how wrong all those images seemed in such a safe place, how wrong the world seemed.

How do you cope when you are in shock?

I don't think clearly. I can't imagine how rescue workers could have known what to do. At this great distance, in the safe haven of my sun room, I had no idea what to do next. I called The Father of My Children and he did not seem worried, this was too far away to touch us, to threaten our children, and the local news assured us the schools in City By the Sea were locked down. Do not come and get your children, we were told, they are safe at school.

Downtown, a block from City By the Sea High School, where #1 Son sat safely in a classroom, a woman brandished a weapon, but it turned out to be a fake.

I tried to reach Pure Luck, but first there was no answer (he was in the shower) and then the line was busy (he lived in a coastal location where you could only get dial-up), and this was long before he had a cell phone, so I had to wait until he came to me.

I got in the shower, mostly because the newscasters kept saying the buildings might fall, and I don't know if I formed the words in my mind, but I could not watch it. I could not watch it.

It did not occur to me that I would watch them fall, over and over and over again.

12 thoughts on “Carpool, Drug Store, Disaster”

  1. I remember I was headed out the door (with paperwork, purse, keys in hand) for some routine bloodwork, but for no reason I stopped and turned on the radio…
    Then I spent the day glued to the TV pretty much in shock. I didn’t want to watch but I couldn’t stop. I kept thinking “Chicago is next.”

  2. chartreuseova, that’s what we were thinking too. I was in college, near downtown, and our university was evacuated. Unfortunately my house was even nearer to downtown, so naturally I went to church, across from the Hancock tower, and decided that if we were going to be next then someone had better be praying. Turned out other people had the same idea because the church was packed with scared, praying people, and soon we were doing a service, and soon the newspeople were there asking why we would come HERE of all places…to which we all responded that it was the only thing we COULD do.
    What a day. What a 7 years…

  3. I was at my church job near a large university and its associated hospital. The news came over Minnesota Public Radio just after the minister arrived; she had a small, low-quality tv that we turned on to watch. Very soon though, our focus became to have the church open for prayer and meditation and to have ministers and seminarians there for people to talk to if they needed. I was also trying to get lots of work done since I was having surgery that Friday and would be out for up to 6 weeks (turned out more like 3). I think that having something to do at the church that was in some way helpful helped me not to be as traumatized and fearful as some people became. (I’m talking about people not “directly” affected.)

  4. We thought San Francisco was the next obvious target, since one of the planes was headed there, and many of the victims were from there.
    Nobody, but nobody wanted to get anywhere near the Golden Gate Bridge for days.

  5. I had just left what I thought was going to be a beginning yoga class, but turned out to be advanced something else, and was in my car on the way to my parents house to gripe about the confusion of the wellness center, when I heard it on the radio. Like you, I figured it was a small plane which had engine problems. When I got to my parent’s house, we turned on the TV, and watched in horror as the second plane banked in and hit the second tower. I remember sitting there in numb silence for I don’t know how long. By the time I got home an hour or two later, I called my husband to come home. I was so scared as they were scrambling to get all aircraft out of the skies and no one knew what was going to happen next. I just remember the sick sense of panic and dread that came over me, and I think I even took a leftover Valium from a surgery I’d had months before. We stayed numb and in front of the TV for days, hour upon hour, watching it all unfold.
    Months later, I felt the same sense of dread sitting in my bedroom watching us start to bomb Baghdad….

  6. I was walking out of the morning meeting and caught the tv out of the side of my vision in the break room as I walked by. I stopped and turned around and sat down to watch the fires and planes on tv. Being in the Aviation Field, anything having to do with a plane crash has a direct affect on our business. The whole office went upstairs and watched in shock and horror.
    I had never been so happy to get home to my children and hug and kiss them.

  7. I was in my obstetrician’s office, waiting to find out when my final–and high-risk–pregnancy would be over because we were scheduling a C-section. Because I was a church elder and leader of the spiritual life committee, that night I helped my church’s minister put together a worship service to comfort the congregation. Five days later, in the midst of so much anguish all over the country, I gave birth ahead of schedule to a beautiful little boy whom my minister called a reminder that God still had life and new beginnings in store for all of us.

  8. My son was seven months old, and I had just gone back to teaching at the university. I heard just a snippet on the radio driving to work, and like Songbird assumed some small plane had made an error. Another professor stopped me in the hall and asked me if I’d heard the news, and I laughed. “Isn’t it crazy?” I said, and she looked at me as if I were crazy. Moments later I was standing in my classroom where a knot of instructors and a few students were watching it unfold, over and over again, and then I understood, or at least as much as one could understand.
    I couldn’t stand being away from my baby, couldn’t stand the feeling of being so mortal, and so I drove back to the daycare center I had just left, and picked up Baby Progeny and cried. I asked the caregivers what I could do to help, and one of them said “My children, my children are at school and I can’t go and get them.” I offered to stay in her place, but she said she couldn’t leave, and so I stayed with them until all the other distracted parents had come to pick up their children, since what mattered to me was already with me.
    Only later, days later, could I really begin to feel the loss of those others, who also mattered so much.

  9. I had just dropped both of my children at school, which is 30 miles from my house and work. As I drove back to work NPR interrupted a story to say that a plane had crashed into the WTC on a beautiful sunny day. I had 1 mile to decide whether to turn around and get my children or continue to work.
    It happened that day was a day for all school Eucharist and I knew that both children were in church. At that point I knew that if the world was ending (and I thought it might be) they were in the best place they could be. And, if the world was not ending I had a job to do and patients were still going to need me that day so I continued to work.
    When I walked into the room of my first patient, the father gave me a huge bear hug and thanked me for being there.
    It was a horrible, horrible day but the children who are currently in first grade were not even born when it happened.

  10. They’re showing the NBC coverage from that day on MSNBC right now. I’m amazed at how calm Matt Lauer and Katie Couric managed to sound, although of course they were in shock, too. It’s hard to remember those moments when we didn’t know what had happened, and the transition from “wow, this is awful” about the first building to “Oh, my God! My God! What is going on here?!?!! Who would fly a jet into a building?!?!!”

  11. I just gotten to work and my student assistant told me that planes had hit the World Trade Center. Never having been to New York, but living near Dallas, where there is also a WTC, I first thought of that one. That made no sense: it’s maybe 10 stories tall?
    We watched on a TV in someone’s office as the buildings fell. It was a stunned day. Ken called and said that Brandon had stayed home sick and they were watching it on TV together. “Come on home,” he said. I think we all just wanted to hunker down together that day.
    But I couldn’t go home; we had a college campus full and an international student population to think of…as well as my students who had just left for study abroad, or were preparing to. Our staff had a meeting that afternoon to plan for our response and support of students, and we needed to: the mosque in town was firebombed that day.
    I said I planned to email all the domestic students I had contact with and ask them to support their colleagues, especially Muslims. “This is a teachable moment,” I said, and it was as if those words had never been said before, or maybe that the phrase was coined for that day.

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